Is this a “Tabloid Press” planet, or one of the astronomical community’s honest mistakes?
By: Vanessa Uy
Sometimes a currently held wisdom of astronomy is redefined over time, usually due to recent advances in science. The advancing perihelion of the planet Mercury; was once believed to be caused by as a yet undiscovered planet. Astronomers at that time dubbed the planet Vulcan after the Roman god of fire and due to the planets supposedly close proximity to the sun- closer than Mercury in fact. Even though Vulcan was never directly observed by optical and/or radio telescopes, astronomers at the time were confident of Vulcan’s existence due to its effect on Mercury’s orbit.
It was later proven that the advancing perihelion of the planet Mercury’s orbit is a consequence of Albert Einstein’s “General Relativity” theory. Thus the existence of Vulcan was ruled out. Vulcan was just a fictitious planet that was accidentally “created” by the astronomical community back then to describe a phenomena that’s not yet fully understood at the time.